- The Washington Times
Sunday, July 18, 2021

Dave Martinez’s voice cracked with emotion when he was asked during his pregame press conference Sunday, just hours after a Saturday night eruption of gunfire outside Nationals Park left three injured and sent fans in the stands, as well as players on the field, scrambling for cover.

“I love this city,” Martinez said. “This city is my home. … I can tell you that inside this ballpark, I feel safer than ever. I really do.”

The manager’s comments came after the gun violence outside the stadium’s third base gate emptied the park and forced the Washington Nationals and the San Diego Padres to postpone finishing Saturday’s game — turning Sunday afternoon into an impromptu doubleheader of sorts, with the Padres taking the interrupted game and the Nationals winning the second with a dramatic bottom-of-the-ninth rally. 

For Martinez, the games were important, but his priority was the safety of his players, their families and the fans. The Washington manager welcomed fans seeking refuge into the team’s clubhouse as officials tried to restore order in the stadium after the shooting.

“They sweat just like the players do, just like I do,” Martinez said of the fans. “They’re here for us. … I just wanted to make sure that everybody was safe. It was a reactionary thing.”

When Martinez and the Nationals returned to the ballpark on Sunday, the manager said his goal, and the team’s, was to get back to a sense of normalcy. 

The Padres took the continuation game 10-4 after adding two runs in the seventh inning and Washington won the scheduled game 8-7, avoiding a series sweep at home and snapping a six-game losing streak.

In the second game, the Nationals’ pitchers fell victim late to the Padres‘ home run hitters. First starter Max Scherzer in the seventh gave up the tying run on a cutter, then Daniel Hudson conceded another in the eighth that put the Padres up by two.

“I feel that flat cutter is usually a ground ball pitch and when they barrel it up, it’s usually foul,” Scherzer said. “That has me scratching my head today because I gave up two homers on cutter today.”

In the top of the ninth, Brad Hand, who came on for a save attempt, let Jorge Mateo steal second and third unchecked, allowing him to score the tying run on a bloop single. 

The pitching errors didn’t cost Washington the game, as Alcides Escobar clubbed a shot over Trent Grisham’s head and off the wall to score Tres Barerra from second, walking off the game.

“I was really pulling for us to score in the bottom of the ninth,” Martinez said. “I didn’t want to play a 10th inning.”

Scherzer started the game by striking out the side, all swinging, on 12 pitches. 

Scherzer’s off-speed pitches were his go-to strikeout pitch early on, getting Trent Grisham to chase a changeup on the outside corner and Fernando Tatis Jr. to chase a slider in the first inning. 

The eight-time All-Star struck out eight on the day, using his off-speed as a put-away pitch four times.

The Nationals’ offense woke up in the third inning, scoring its first four runs of the day, including the completion of the first game. 

Josh Bell drove in a run on a chopper to first and then Josh Harrison lined a two-out double to left-center field and Andrew Stevenson hit an RBI single, putting Washington up 3-0. Barerra added one more run with an RBI single.

Scherzer didn’t allow a hit for the first three and a third innings, but then San Diego started squaring up his fastball. After back-to-back singles off of it, Scherzer threw a cutter to Eric Hosmer, who took him deep for a three-run blast, pulling the Padres within one in the fourth. 

The fourth inning hasn’t been kind to Scherzer in his past two starts against the Padres. He’s allowed hitters to go 7-for-12 with only two strikeouts and three home runs in that stretch. In his first three innings of that span, he’s been dominant, allowing only one hit with 10 strikeouts. 

In the fifth and sixth innings, the Nationals managed to get five baserunners, but couldn’t score. Washington started 3-for-4 with runners in scoring position to start the game, but finished 4-for-12 for the game. 

Scherzer tossed seven innings, allowing four runs on four hits with eight strikeouts.

The Nationals did their best impression of the Padres in the eighth, homering twice to pull ahead. Escobar hit a solo shot to right-center field and Juan Soto hit a two-run home run to left, taking a 7-6 lead.

“When he stays on the ball and he’s got the whole field, he’s going to hit the ball to right-center field like he did,” Martinez said. “Big day for him, big day for Juan, big day for the Nationals.”

Soto’s home run was his eighth-career go-ahead shot in the seventh inning or later in his career.

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